By Rachel Tuchman

Dear Rachel,

I am sending my children to camp this summer, and I am a lot more nervous than I thought I would be. I have the greatest memories of camp, but I also know that sending my kids away means I can’t protect them as I’d like to. I remember learning about some really mature topics in camp (my parents definitely did not want me knowing that stuff; also, those kids were totally misinformed). I know my kids (in day camp and sleepaway) will be socializing with lots of different kids from different home environments, and while this is great for them, it also feels really scary for me. Part of me wants to keep them innocent, though I know I can’t keep them in a bubble. I can’t help but wonder what will they hear, see, and experience, and I can’t be there to process it with them. What measures can I take to keep my kids safe this summer (and keep my anxiety at bay)?

A Very Nervous Nelly

Dear Nervous Nelly,

The summer is such a wonderful time. More relaxed schedules for kids, no homework, warm weather, more hours of sunlight, day camp, sleepaway camp, summer nights, and more opportunities to be out in nature and to be active. This is great for our physical and mental health, but there are increased risks of danger and injury for our kids and teens. As parents, we want to be proactive in our parenting and consider implementing the appropriate safety measures to keep our kids happy, healthy, and safe.

Summer camps are great for kids. Sleepaway camp can provide our kids with friendships, memories, and personal growth that can contribute wonderfully to their lives. That being said, yes, there are always risks. This is true of literally everything in life. We can’t live our lives trying to avoid risk; instead, we need to weigh the risks against the benefits and make smart and responsible decisions from there and prepare ourselves accordingly. Giving our kids tools to navigate the world and its challenges rather than trying to shelter them will ultimately make them much healthier, happier kids and, eventually, adults. Teaching your kids that you can trust them to navigate the world will help them to step into it with more confidence and a stronger ability to make good decisions and stay safe. This happens through frequent open and shame-free discussions about friendships and other relationships, their bodies, their emotional health, and other topics.

For the summer, start with the basics by making sure they remember to wear a helmet/protective gear when bike riding, roller skating, or using a scooter. You can send a pocket-size first-aid kit for them to keep in their backpacks in the event of a minor fall/scrape.

Make sure you put sunscreen on them or give them sunscreen to put on when they leave the house in the morning. Remind them to reapply throughout the day (many camps are on top of this). Discuss boundaries around sunscreen application like making sure it is done in a public area (that means with other people around). Sunscreen only gets applied to areas that are not covered by their water wear, and it is also important to teach them how to apply it themselves. Send a spray sunscreen as well for hard-to-reach areas so as to minimize physical contact. This helps keep personal boundaries clear and protects our kids.

Send them with water and remind them of the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day. Discuss the signs of dehydration like feeing thirsty, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, dry mouth, eyes or lips, headaches, craving sugar, fatigue, muscle cramps, dark-colored urine, nausea (these could also be signs of other issues but please make sure they are properly hydrated) and remind them to pay attention to their bodies.

Do not leave children alone in cars, even for a short time. Check back seats before you exit the car.

Teach water safety rules and teach them how to swim. If you can invest in swimming lessons, this is a great option. Sometimes group lessons are more cost-efficient, which may be a good option to consider if finances are tighter for you. Do not leave children unattended near water, even if they know how to swim.

Talk to your kids about body boundaries and safety. Go on to their camp website or social media page and show them pictures of the people in charge of the camp. Point out the people they can go to for any issues in camp if their counselors or other adults aren’t listening. If you have a relationship with any of these staff members, tell your kids how you know them. This can make your kids feel more comfortable to approach them knowing that you know them (you don’t have to be close friends).

Ask camp administrators about their safety procedures and abuse-prevention strategies. It is good practice for camps to have this on their website, but if they don’t you can reach out and ask. If you are someone who works in camps, Rahel Bayar of the Bayar Group is an amazing resource for helping schools, camps, and other organizations to put safety measures in place and provide proper training to staff and administrators to ensure safety for everyone ( She is a wonderful resource for parents as well. You can take some of her suggestions and present them to your camp administrators.

Think about any sensitive discussions that you may need to have with them before camp. Remember that, as a parent, you want to be the primary source of information for your child. Day camp buses and sleepaway camp are often where kids receive their first “education” about sensitive topics. Please consider giving them this information in the safety of your home and give them the tools to know if and how to respond to these kinds of conversations with their peers. Tell them what to do if someone offers to show them a picture or video on their device that contains mature content. (Visit and sign up for my online course on “Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Sexuality” where I give tools, tips, scripts, and resources to have these conversations in a healthy and empowering manner.) Remember that if they share with you that they heard or saw something sensitive (inappropriate language, etc.), thank them for sharing with you and have an open discussion about it with them. This response increases the likelihood that they will open up and share with you in the future.

If they are showing signs of puberty and will be going away to camp (even if they are in day camp) make sure to send them with the appropriate personal hygiene items to take care of their bodies. Talk about how and when to use these items. Make sure you tell them that we use these things because we care about and respect our bodies, not because we think they are gross. Shame-free messaging is so important in all areas of our parenting and certainly when we discuss bodies and bodily functions.

If they will be going away, give them a way to communicate with you to let you know how they are doing (do not send a device if this violates camp rules). Send them with stationery or a notebook and write the addresses of people they may want to write to on the first page. Include envelopes and stamps, too. It is important that kids know you are interested and invested in their well-being. If they don’t end up writing to you that is OK, but make the effort to send them letters letting them know you are thinking about them. This connection alone can be a protective measure.

Remember that we give our kids all of these tools to help them stay safe, but at the end of the day it is our job to keep them safe, not theirs. If something happens, we need to make sure we respond appropriately to protect them and prevent further harm. Let your kids know that you are giving them this information to help them but even if something does happen, they should never feel ashamed or scared to talk to you and ask you for help because it is your job as their parent and you take it very seriously.

Lastly, if your kids are going to be away this summer, consider not having company the Shabbat before they leave in order to spend some quality family time together. This can be emotionally nourishing for the whole family and can provide a great opportunity to discuss any concerns or nervousness they may have about their summer plans. You don’t have to fix or offer advice (unless they want it). The power of listening with emotional presence can be all the “help” they need.

Before I close, I want to briefly address the anxiety you mentioned about wanting to protect your kids and maintain their innocence. This is so valid and relatable. A healthier perspective that might help reduce your anxiety is to remember that protecting and strengthening our kids isn’t about making sure they never encounter anything difficult. Rather, it is about helping them learn how to respond in these situations and how to care for themselves and get support. Children don’t lose innocence when they face the world. They lose innocence when they are not given the right protection and information to know how to navigate the world in a safe and responsible way. Our kids gain confidence and feel empowered when they have knowledge, information, and the belief they can handle hard things. Optimism, courage, and resilience are built through facing moderate challenges with strong support from caregivers. Similar to how we increase muscle strength through putting stress on the muscle (in a safe, moderate, controlled, and repetitive way), let’s give our kids space to face those moderate and healthy stressors so that they can work those mental and emotional muscles as well. As a parent, it feels a lot less scary to set your kids free when you know they have sturdy wings to help them fly.

Have a wonderful, happy, healthy, and safe summer!

Rachel Tuchman, LMHC, is a licensed therapist in private practice. She treats a variety of mental-health concerns and also shares psychoeducation via her social media platform, public speaking, and online courses. You can learn more about Rachel’s work at and follow her on Instagram @rachel_tuchman_lmhc.


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